Olivia Newton-John's If Not for You covers Gordon Lightfoot, the Band, Leslie Duncan, David Gates, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Rush, and others. Though "If" is a pedestrian cover of Bread's song which hit this same year, it would be a mistake to think these are all mere "covers." The production and arrangements by Bruce Welch and John Farrar are innovative and worthwhile. The only song they contribute is a moving version of "Banks of the Ohio"; the interpretation of Richard Manuel's "In a Station" is respectful and intuitive. Music from Big Pink was only three years old when this recording was pressed, and it is one of the few albums to survive the hype and get better with age. Olivia Newton-John dipping into the Big Pink songbook was a stroke of genius. Labelmate Elton John released Leslie Duncan's "Love Song" on his Here and There live album, but that version doesn't have the sensitivity of this spiritual reading. Both Kris Kristofferson tunes, "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night," have arrangements that bring new life to what had became bar band favorites in the early '70s. "Where Are You Going to My Love?" was covered by the Brotherhood of Man and the Osmonds, but finds its niche here, as does the superb version of Duncan's "Lullaby." Tom Rush's "No Regrets" and Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" are well done, but it is Olivia Newton-John's cover of Bob Dylan by way of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass which garnered her a number one adult contemporary and Top 25 hit record. "If Not for You" brought Olivia the attention she deserved. The musicianship by Lou Reed/David Bowie sessionman Herbie Flowers along with Dave Richmond, John Farrar, and the ever present Brian Bennett is top notch. After all her own hit records, hearing this superstar sing so many familiar tunes, and performing them so well, is utterly charming.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione